Is this the week Casper Ruud finds his form?
The Norwegian made a good start at the Millennium Estoril Open on Wednesday when he rallied past Portugal’s Joao Sousa 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP 250 clay-court event.
“I am just happy to get the win today,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “It was not looking good after the first set, but I managed to step up and play better and better and I think that is a good sign going into the next match.”
Ruud, who is making his debut in Estoril, entered the match holding a 5-6 record on the season after losing in the third round in Indian Wells and Miami. The top seed ensured he would not suffer another early exit against Sousa, though, raising his intensity and level as the two-hour, 15-minute match went on to improve to 4-0 in their ATP Head2Head series.
“Joao is such a nice guy,” Ruud said. “I have mixed feelings, winning against him here in Estoril. I know he is a home-crowd favourite. He is a great example of a great fighter. He really has had an influence on this tournament and the fans here.”
Ruud has now earned 100 tour-level wins on clay, capturing eight of his nine ATP Tour titles on the surface. He also reached the final at Roland Garros last year.
The World No. 5 is into the quarter-finals at a tour-level event for the first time since September when he advanced to the last eight in Seoul. He will next play Argentine Sebastian Baez after the defending champion defeated Pedro Cachin 6-4, 7-6(2).
“It will be a tough one against Baez. We have never played against each other. He is a young player. I saw him more and more the past years. He is developing well. He is a great player and won his first title here last year. He is a player to watch out for and I am going to have to be on top of my game.”
Baez enjoyed a dream run to his maiden tour-level title in Estoril last season and has looked at home once again in his two opening matches at this year’s event. After beating Radu Albot in the first round, the 22-year-old broke Cachin’s serve five times to advance after two hours and 11 minutes.
In other action, Marco Cecchinato defeated Fabio Fognini 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in an-all Italian clash. The 30-year-old Cecchinato will play third seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina or #NextGenATP Frenchman Luca Van Assche in his first quarter-final of the season.